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    Celebrating the Life of Mayor Lee

    By Assemblymember Phil Ting–

    Just one short month ago, San Francisco didn’t just lose its mayor; it lost a champion for social justice and a pioneer for its many different communities with Mayor Edwin M. Lee’s tragic passing. 

    His story began where many American immigrants’ stories began—he was the son of Chinese immigrants and grew up living in public housing. His mother was a seamstress and his father was a cook at a restaurant. Mayor Lee helped out with deliveries at the restaurant before graduating from college in Maine and attending Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.

    He began his career working in civil rights as an advocate for low income housing at the Asian Law Caucus. He started there as a law clerk and eventually became managing attorney, fighting for the rights of underserved communities in San Francisco by suing City Hall on behalf of Chinatown’s immigrant tenants. He continued his championing of immigrant rights last January by reaffirming San Francisco’s stance as a sanctuary city.

    Mayor Lee’s incredible career was inspiring to many of us. The Chinese American community has been a part of San Francisco for more than 150 years, and more than 25 percent of the city’s population is Chinese American.  When he became mayor in 2011, it was a milestone for the Chinese American community.

    He was responsible for major shifts in city politics. Before he became mayor, he helped the Asian American community engage with the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor’s Office, and city departments in order to expand their influence and enact policies they supported. As a result of his work before and after becoming mayor, many more Asian Americans began to get involved in city politics. The reason why many of us even have a seat at the table is because of Mayor Lee.

    As the mayor of San Francisco, he also defended the rights of the LGBT community. Mayor Lee was a founding member of the Mayors Against LGBT Discrimination coalition, which is made up of a bipartisan group of mayors dedicated to ensuring and preserving LGBT protections.

    Mayor Lee also backfilled millions for critical HIV services when federal funding was cut, saving thousands of lives. When North Carolina passed legislation to end protections for LGBT people and ban transgender individuals from using the restrooms that correspond with their gender identity, Mayor Lee reacted by banning city-funded travel to North Carolina.

    As a fellow alum of the Asian Law Caucus, I am incredibly grateful for Mayor Lee’s accomplishments as an Asian American trailblazer, and as a champion for many of San Francisco’s diverse and vulnerable communities. His public service and career opened the doors that many of us were locked out of before.

    Mayor Lee will be remembered for his tireless work to improve the lives of every San Franciscan during times of both great prosperity and extreme hardship, and I hope that we can strengthen his legacy by continuing his efforts to make San Francisco a better place to live.

    Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the Westside of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma, Daly City, and parts of South San Francisco.